10 Years of Growth

Legend has it that the idea for Coast Mountain Academy started during a conversation between two of our founding board members, over a fine bottle of red wine, and that after finishing the bottle they went on to sign their names to it in an unbreakable vow to make their dream a reality. 2 years later, the school opened its doors for the first time with 15 students and a vision of what school could look like. And now, in our 10th year of operation, we’ve taken this founding educational vision and thoroughly field-tested it against the realities of running an independent school in the 21st century, the changing demographics of the Sea to Sky Corridor, public-sector teacher strikes, viral pandemics, and all the rest of the curveballs that come when working with youth. 

Today, it’s a safe bet to send your child to CMA. Through a strong institutional desire to constantly improve we’ve expanded our academic and extracurricular offerings and refined our programs in a manner that has led to some noteworthy statistics, namely our 100% graduation rate and 90+% record of students receiving admission to their top-choice university. But in those first years, students and families had little else to believe in but the very ethos of the school. With no defined road map laid out before them, these students were true pioneers. The flavour of the week was E-words: Engagement, Experiential, and Enrichment. Our programming was geared towards these concepts and we were taking progressive educational ideas and putting them in action. At CMA, there was a sense that you could. Unlike other schools that staff had worked at, CMA had a grassroots desire to get students outside, blend disciplines in the pursuit of authentic experience, and create wonder that would last from womb to tomb. And the best part was, there were no pesky traditions standing in our way, preventing us from teaching the way that we had always wanted to.

 

Having a desire to teach outside the 4 walls of the classroom is one thing, but having a location completely suited to it cannot go unacknowledged. The Quest University campus has been an incredible home to CMA, providing our students and staff with endless opportunities for both on and off trail adventures, and a venue with which to explore local ecology, timeless geology, inspiring poetry, residential development, and of course, the niche that we as humans play in all of this, with only a short walk needed for full immersion in any of these domains. We also have had and continue to have the privilege of using the phenomenal Recplex and Cafeteria spaces, which greatly enhances our student’s day-to-day experience. But beyond the tall timbers, curious woodland creatures, torrential creeks, expansive vistas, and enticing turf fields that surround us there is something much harder to describe, and much more meaningful, about being where we are. You see, it takes a good many years in your life to even begin realizing the effect that an environment has had on you. Here, the seasons can be measured by the colour of the maple leaves and where the snow line is in the Tantalus Range. Here, there are distinct smells that distinguish the onset of winter from the onset of spring. Here, contemplating what this land, what all land, could have looked like before the rise of humanity is a totally normal thing to do as you stare over the verdant Squamish Valley, watching the glacial green river find its way to the ocean. 

As we began graduating cohorts of students something unexpected occurred: our Alumni started coming back, with great regularity. Typically on or around Thanksgiving – the first break in the university year – we’d have a smattering of Alumni dropping-in on campus, saying hello to the teachers that had made such a big impact on their lives. And if we didn’t see them at Thanksgiving, then the Winter Holiday provided an excellent opportunity for Alumni to come and share some war stories from their first final exam season at University. It is this occurrence that I’m more proud of than any other; through all the ups and downs of the middle and high school years, through all the rainy hikes and forest walks, we’re creating an extremely well-bonded community here at CMA where our students will always feel at home. Give it another 10 years, and I’ll bet that CMA’s alumni will have started contributing in significant ways in the Sea to Sky Corridor and beyond. 

 

These days, CMA is feeling a lot bigger than it used to, both in terms of population, number of classrooms, extracurricular opportunities, and school systems. In the spring of 2021, CMA’s board of directors made the decision to lease a wing of the academic building at Quest University to house our Senior School, which paved the way for “Double Cohorts” at the Middle School. This strategic and structural change has brought a significant wave of growth to our school, and we are making year-after-year progress towards our long-term student population goal of 240. Beyond the numbers, though, this growth is reflected in increased academic and extracurricular program options, increased social opportunity, and more teachers to build that special relationship with and learn from. Our idea with 240 is to have a school that is large enough to offer a diverse selection of peers, teams, and elective courses, but small enough to continue to offer our immersive, experiential programming and retain the most important aspect of what we do, which is build relationships that will last a lifetime. And while this is the plan moving forward, it’s important to acknowledge that the goal of any school should be to build an institution full of synergy. That is, a school experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. A school with a strong and palpable culture that can guide it through future pandemics, a changing climate, and any other tricks that the earth has up its sleeve. If we do our jobs right, this institution will stand for centuries, for generations, for longer than any single lifetime of anybody involved in it. 

It is this mindset, learned from 10 years of growth, that I carry with me as I captain the ship. For it’s all too easy to sink into the mental trap of over-valuing the pieces of a school that can be written on paper: square footage, course lists, etc., instead of focusing on the things that make any institution special: the relationships that exist within its members, and the wonder that it creates. 

Submitted by Mr. Logan, Head of School

 

Join CMA’s Senior School

Contrary to popular belief, it is never too late to join CMA! Are you a grade 11 or 12 student (or a parent of one) who is looking for more from your high school? CMA’s senior school is located in new facilities and our programming focuses on academic resilience, as well as character and confidence development. Did you know that 94% of all of our graduates have gotten into their first choice post-secondary program?

Spaces are still available for grade 11 and 12 students to start this September. Bursaries and scholarships are also available. Email [email protected] for more details.

Gambier Island Adventuring

Submitted by Mr. Ketcheson
The trip to Gambier Island / Cha7elkwnetch was like two worlds colliding for me. I’ve spent, on and off, the last 7 summers living on Halkett bay at Camp Fircom – just a short 30 minute walk from our campsite. Exploring the forests and beaches there with campers was, in fact, how I realized I wanted to be a teacher! Going back with CMA students and seeing all the energy and curiosity they have was truly a pleasure and a privilege.
Gambier Island / Cha7elkwnetch is such an excellent place for learning experiences. While it’s nearby, it’s removed enough to feel disconnected from civilization and give a sense of self-sufficiency. Without any bears on the island, it’s a relatively safe spot to camp and build up some outdoorsy confidence. The hike up to Mount Artaban is short enough not to take up an entire day, but challenging enough to feel a sense of accomplishment for having finished. The camp is near an old village site and has a large intertidal zone perfect for mucking about and finding all sorts of creatures and critters. I have no doubt that each and every student took some unique learning away from this trip.
Some of the experiences and learnings I had the chance to be a part of included many excited students running up to me to tell me about birds they had seen, learning about crabs and starfish and all kinds of other creatures in the intertidal, as well as the names and stories connected with many of the plants and trees in the forest. While many LEAD trips focus on preparing students socially and physically for expeditions, it was rewarding to slow down and see a different way to be in nature – not just as a teacher sharing my knowledge, but to see the ways students brought their own experiences and understanding forward as well. As an erstwhile marine biologist, it was great to see the excitement and playfulness students brought to exploring the beach. Not to play favourites, but the best find of the trip was a small octopus beak.
This trip was also a rare opportunity for students of all grades to come together and get to know each other a bit more. About 100 students in one camp site is quite a few, but the space is very accommodating to large numbers. It was interesting to watch as a teacher to see how different grades helped each other and the spontaneous play and games that took place. The grade 9 students had shared some important camping skills with the grade 7s previously, and the results of their efforts were clear!
What more I can say about the experience of camping among the maple trees I’ll leave to this song about Gambier by Said The Whale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd-kl_J5Ea8

Meet a CMA student

Meet CMA grade 12 student Eric! As a member of Coast Mountain Academy’s High-Performance Program, Eric has a unique perspective and set of experiences. Hear what he has to say about learning within a smaller classroom and how CMA has supported him in reaching for his academic and competitive goals. Watch here: https://youtu.be/IUhyf_5mjsE

Interested in CMA for your child next year?

A great way to learn about CMA and our admissions process is to join in one of our virtual Coffee Talk events with Head of School, Mr. Logan, and Director of Admissions, Tracy Keeling. Our next event is Feb 17, 2022 from 10:30 – 11:30 am. For more information and to register please call CMA at 604-390-3262.

Book a Campus Tour

Are you interested in CMA for your child? The best way to learn about our school is to book a private campus tour with our Director of Admissions, Tracy Keeling. Tracy is happy to tour you and your family around the middle school campus, senior school campus, or both! Tours are available from 9 am to 4 pm, and in the evenings upon request. Please call the CMA office at 604-390-3262, or email [email protected] to book your tour.

CMA Holiday Auction – Open to Everyone

Did you know that CMA’s silent auction is open to everyone?
The CMA Holiday Social Fundraiser is a great way to complete your holiday shopping. Please go to our website and make your bid today. Winners can pick up items at CMA and in some cases, vouchers can be emailed.
https://trellis.org/2021cmawintersocial

Interested in CMA for your child next year?

A great way to learn about CMA and our admissions process is to join in one of our virtual Coffee Talk events with Head of School, Mr. Logan, and Director of Admissions, Tracy Keeling. Our next event is Nov 25, 2021 from 10:30 – 11:30 am. For more information and to register please call CMA at 604-390-3262.

CMA Is Growing Even More

A few months ago we announced the exciting news that CMA would be adding a second grade 7 class starting September 2021. Due to the ever-increasing demand for our middle school, we have decided to add a second grade 8 class as well!

Our students will continue to benefit from smaller class sizes but now get to enjoy a larger social group of kids their age as well.

We are now accepting new student applications to join our second grade 8 class starting in September 2021. If you are interested in applying please contact Tracy Keeling, Director of Admissions & Communications at [email protected] You can also learn more about the admissions process and start an online application by visiting coastmountainacademy.ca/apply.